Thursday, November 13, 2008

Muscovy Ducks

At the APA National in Ventura in October, I purchased two National Geographic classics: January 1926, featuring Man's Feathered Friends of Longest Standing and Pigeons of Resplendent Plumage and March 1930, with Fowls of Forest and Stream Tamed by Man and Fowls of Field, Park and Farmyard.
Hashime Murayama painted 12 pigeon scenes for the 1926 issue and 16 ducks, turkeys and others for the 1930 issue. This painting of Muscovy Ducks is one of them.
Most domestic ducks are related to Mallards, but the Muscovy is a separate breed entirely. Muscovies are native to Central and South America and Mexico, where they were first domesticated. They remain wild in their native habitat. Several different strains, some with more wild characteristics, are available, so make sure you know what you are acquiring. In the wild, they roost in trees.

They take to domestication well, as they have since before contact with Europe. Columbus may have introduced them to Europe along with the turkey, or Spanish explorers may have brought them from South America to Africa in the 16th century. From there, they traveled along trade routes to Europe. They were exhibited at the first American poultry show in 1849 and included in the first APA Standard of Excellence in 1874.

They are excellent natural layers, the hens often laying as many as 20 eggs in a clutch and raising two clutches in a season. They are good mothers and often used to incubate eggs of other birds.

Many commercial operations raise Muscovies for the table. They grow quickly to market size, but overfeeding them to increase growth can cause leg and reproduction problems.

The caruncles, the warty growths on the head, are unique to Muscovies and an important show point. For exhibition, the caruncles should be equally distributed on both sides of the head, not so extreme that it interferes with the crest feathers on top of the head and not interfere with the bird’s vision.

They are personable and self-reliant, although some are inclined to fight and may be aggressive. Many small flock owners warm to their sociable personalities. Females may be inclined to fly, although males may be too heavy. Clipping primaries may be necessary, although they are faithful to a good home. They are the quietest duck. Muscovies retain the strengths of their wild past in domestic life.


Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

Caruncles--so that's what those growths are called!

PoultryBookstore said...

There's a name for everything!